A Christian man in India was killed for his faith by a gang of men wielding knives and sickles as persecution against believers in the country continues to rise.
"G" Dhanasekharan, aged 34, had been praying at his Devasabha Church in Chennai in Tamil Nadu, southern India, when he apparently received a phone call and stepped out of the service, according to the Times of India.
As soon as he exited the church, Dhanasekaran was surrounded by the gang of aggressive men, causing him to flee into another church. However, the caught up with him and murdered him before fleeing on three motorcycles.
Dhanasekaran, who is survived by his wife Daisy, and sons Isaac, 5, and Jacob, 3, may have been targeted due to his involvement in local politics: He was a councillor for the DMK or Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam political party, representing the local youth, and worked in real estate.
"We are also trying to find out whether there was any business rivalry which could have resulted in the murder," said an investigating officer.
However, local Christians believe he was targeted due to his Christian faith. Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told Agenzia Fides: "This killing is yet another proof that Christian minorities are particularly vulnerable. The trail of aggression carried out by Hindu militants to the detriment of the Pentecostal faithful is known. Police are investigating but we believe Dhanasekharan was also killed because of his faith."
The country is ranked 17th on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution. The report notes that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, radical Hinduism, which was already present under the previous government, has increased steadily.
According to a report from The Evangelical Fellowship of India's Religious Liberty Commission (EFIRLC), at least 134 incidents of violence against Christians in India were carried out in the first half of 2016 alone, compared with 147 incidents in all of 2014 and 177 in 2015. Even worse - the cases chronicled from Jan. 1 to June 30 were "just a fraction of the violence on the ground."
Christians face a variety of dangers, from Maoist rebels to Hindu extremists, with the central government offering little protection, the report found.
In August, a Christian pastor was reportedly beaten to death in the east Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh state by hundreds of Maoist rebels who thought he was a police informer.
In June, it was reported that Christians living in the Hunter village in the state of Jharkhand were banned from worshiping by police, while also being threatened by Hindu radicals.